I used to suck at gm'ing, and in many ways I still do, but I'm getting better. I was thinking about this today, and recalled one particular interaction I had with a friend and fellow gamer (and pretty good GM) at ACNW. She's also a writer.
I said that I struggled with conflict. This statement took as a given that conflict is the heart of story, so it seemed important. She said she wasn't surprised, since she knows me pretty well, knows that a lot of my real life has been about conflict avoidance (in the past) and conflict management (now) and knew that my typical approach in real life is to find common ground and attempt compassion and empathy with those I'm in conflict with.
Those are valuable things, even in RPGs, but mostly OOC. But in-game...not so much.
So we talk a bit about that, and then she says "what I do with my characters is find out what they want, and them keep them from getting it".
Little lights exploded in my head.
Since then, which was only November of last year, I feel like I have leveled up a bit as far as gm'ing goes.
Of course, this presumes a certain sort of game, one where that internal tension of not getting what your character wants is enjoyable and what the player is seeking. Many games aren't like that. It's the sort of game I personally like a lot though.
I don't know if I'm looking for reactions to the above, here, or if I'm looking for others to share their own aha! moments. Either, I guess, would be fine.